Just the job

Having been with my current employers for almost ten years, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the job marketplace. But I still shake in terror at the recollection of nightmarish interviews, in which smirking members of the personnel department — sorry, that’s now “Human Resources”, isn’t it? — would unleash sneaky questions like “What do you think is your biggest weakness?”. You would mumble something totally implausible like “I am too ready to sacrifice my health through overwork for the greater glory of the company”, and pray they’d hurry up and move on to your O-level results.

Needless to say, when the chance came to put the boot on the other foot, I leapt at it with both hands [pausing only to mangle severely a few metaphors en route]. For the company was having an open night, and for my sins, I’d been selected to act as a screener. This is not-quite-an-interviewer; you go through people’s CVs with them to make sure they have the necessary experience, and filter out the real deadwood before passing the rest on. However, it was still enough to provoke visions of shrieking “Kneel before me, mortals, and QUAKE at the POWER I hold over you” at bemused applicants for the post of business analyst.

Sadly, this was to remain unfulfilled — as did the one about desperate supermodels prepared to trade sexual favours for employment in the IT department of a major, but somewhat backward, financial institution. I largely found myself interviewing a series of grey people whose major personality trait was the complete lack of any. The disturbing thing was that the people I’d actually want to work with, inevitably lacked any sort of relevant experience — people with years of web experience are not really required by a company which still views the Internet as a tool of Satan. How many ways are there to subtly tell someone, “You don’t want to work here”?

The organisation of the whole event left a bit to be desired, not least having the event at an old brewery, but only supplying orange juice. It is my belief that interviews (and indeed all business meetings generally) should be conducted down the pub; after three pints, you get a far better idea of what someone is really like. There was also a startling failure to realise that some positions would be more attractive than others: they didn’t seem to realise they’d get more “analysts” turning up than “database administrators”, so there were queues for the former while the latter failed to see ANY applicants during the entire evening.

For the first interview especially, I think I was probably more nervous than the interviewee, especially as we had no time to prepare, by looking at their CVs for example. For some people this was no problem, they’d would happily witter on for ages, while you frantically scanned their application form for anything you recognised — “oh, so you live in Brighton? Do you come up to London on the Thameslink trains?” was one of my more desperate ploys. But in other cases, the answers were monosyllabic in the extreme, and when you know sod-all about the position in question, this means that you run out of steam inside about two minutes. It seems churlish to chuck them out on that basis — you tend to err on the side of caution and send anyone through to the next stage, as long as they possess the right number of limbs (plus or minus a couple).

This is thus somewhat in the nature of an apology, to those individuals who were keen enough to turn up, hoping for a job opportunity, only to be faced with a gibbering wreck, slamming back the orange juice and droning on about trains. Sorry. But, hey, I was probably doing you a favour…

That Damn Show


Phoenix Arizona Saturday 19 September 1998 – All Freaking Day…….

The Phunk Junkeez - out on 'work furlough'

The Phunk Junkeez - out on 'work furlough'

Let’s see.. where do I start? Picture this: A baseball stadium, big enough for 30,000 humans – and several more sub-humans – harboring a music festival of epic proportions, in an area of Arizona bordering a retirement community, which houses only ONE policeman. Picture the old farts paying extra money to hire Phoenix police as serious backup just in case we get a little ornery. Hehehe… Then, picture one of the bands being very late for the concert because they got busted in Buckeye, a town south of Phoenix, for “smoking controlled substances”, and being given a “work furlough” in order to make the concert at all.

Then, picture quite the number of strange and unusual people, some carrying inflatable dates (I witnessed that) and quite the number of vendors selling everything from stickers that said “nice people swallow”, to adult novelties (which included to my utter delight an inflatable sheep that came with its own KY jelly), to free condoms and old, used cd’s… Where else to find the tent for Trash City? Right in the damn middle of it, where else? Yes, folks, your American Ambassador squatted her team of Trash vendors and journalists here, at the Peoria Sports complex for “That Damn Show” sponsored by a local alternative radio station and a local American beer company. All my fans who read my stuff on a regular basis should recognize the Peoria Sports Complex when I had to take my son’s class on a field trip there to see a baseball game and wrote about it.

The festival itself started at 11:00am and went on till almost midnight. I arrived at the stadium at 7:00am to set up our tent. The bands were great, let me try to remember all of them, here goes:

Harvey Danger, not sitta-ing on a flagpole

Harvey Danger, not sitta-ing on a flagpole

  • Urge
  • Harvey Danger
  • Cake
  • Fuel
  • Jackie the Jokeman
    from Howard Stern’s show
  • Blink 182
  • Sugar Ray
  • 7 Mary 3
  • Goo Goo Dolls
  • Phunk Junkeez
  • Lenny Kravitz

There were more, but I can’t remember…my brain was fried. The temperature was 109 degrees and I got a serious-ass farmer tan on my neck and shoulders. There was a ton of people and I set up the camcorder to do “man on the street” interviews for Trash City. At some future point we will show you photos of just how weird people can be and just how willing they are to do anything, and I mean ANYTHING, in front of a camera, if they have the smallest inkling that they may be on TV. I just neglected to say that it would be MY television they would be on, not network TV of any sort. But hey, you know my favorite saying: “fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”

And we all love vindaloo...

And we all love vindaloo...

I got a good 28 minutes of hysteria on tape. Lots of TC fans telling the camera just what they think of Trash City and most of the responses were funny, witty, neglible, ignorant, unintelligible and downright obscene (may be considered offensive by British Customs and Excise). But despite the moral turpitude, one of the best parts was introducing the fans to the exercise of learning the lyrics to your pep rally song “Vindaloo”. [Oh, dear. I have to raise my hand at this point as the guilty party who sent Chris the CD… JhM] They began to think it was part of “Trash City Rules” so a lot of them used the chant “Vindaloo… Bucket!” in the videotaped interviews. Some day we may make that tape available for viewing to the general TC public, perhaps a “director’s cut” with everything left in, including a special wide-screen edition of “Trash City Bloopers”. But that’s only on the back burner of this American Ambassador’s charred flesh-for-brains.

One charming thing that stood out was “Miss Kathy’s Concessions”. I was reminded of the nostalgia days of ballroom dancing, of Fred Astaire dancing in night clubs, of the atmosphere of the 50’s and the romanticism that were “night clubs”, except these were Concession girls “Retro style”! They pulled up in a hot pink van and piled out of it, inflating plastic furniture and changing into costume: sequined miniskirts, fishnet stockings, 7″ spike high heels and bustiers that pushed their cleavage out into huge mounds under their chins. Then they hung trays from straps around their necks, filled to capacity with all manner of concessions, including lollies, chips, cigarettes, cigars, Ultra-sour Mega Warheads, and each girl went out into the bleachers spouting Betty Boop-like “Cigars, Cigarettes, Candy”. They were constantly selling out. I wonder why. I thought the concept was brilliant. It was retro, it was nostalgic, it was perfect. They told me they travel all over the country to different festivals doing this. I was impressed — and I am a female, and NOT a Lesbian. After saying that, I am sure that a huge percentage of the male populace enjoyed the visual displays they had on offer. And I don’t mean the trays around their necks… I just thought it was original thinking on Miss Kathy’s part.

All in all, a fun day, full of wild fans, great music, crappy food and expensive beer. This is the second year for this concert and judging from the enthusiasm shown, more than likely to become a tradition, unless the old farts from Sun City have any say about it. But we know what we’ll say if they try to stop it next year:


Chris Fata

Falling off the wagon

The month of tee-totality finally ended on Friday night, with the sound of popping Kriek corks, and a hearty “Thank God that’s over”. Though there are a couple of plusses as a result, most noticeably that you lose your tolerance for alchohol real fast — one bottle on Friday night, and I just crashed out, though I was up to three on Saturday. By the end of next week, the period of sobriety will be little more than a dim, vaguely unpleasant memory.

I also managed to lose half a stone during the month, which was also a pleasant surprise, as this was without too much effort. Sure, I didn’t have any kebabs, but then, I never really WANTED one — it’s the culinary equivalent of getting tattooed, both being things that only make sense after a few pints, and eating a kebab stone-cold sober is something of less than limited appeal. Whether the weight will return or not is uncertain, but it seems likely, especially if I attack many more Haagen-Daaz Chocolate Sundaes, as I did at the weekend. Though if you are going to put on weight, there can be few more pleasant ways to do it.

It is largely as a result of this, that the editorial is late, ‘cos I couldn’t be bothered to do anything more strenuous than slump in an armchair last night, stuffed to the gunnels as I was with industrial quantities of chocolate. “Sloth” and “gluttony” were definitely the chosen sins for the weekend — though it would help if I could remember what all the other ones actually were. Lust, I know, but for the rest, it’s really a case of perm any four from: avarice, pride, envy, blasphemy, jealousy, and several other things ending in Y. [Poetry? Barnsley? Broccol…er, time to watch ‘Se7en’ again, methinks]

But I don’t think you were really supposed to use them as a checklist, even back in Biblical times. A more up-to-date version is the renowned ‘Purity Test’, which is supposed to give you an idea of how morally corrupt/life experienced you are, by asking you a large number of questions about what you have or haven’t done. This has been around for well over a decade – I remember it from my days at university – and it’s not the individual answers, but the overall percentage of Yes’s that matter. Also, being self-administered and marked gives it an obvious advantage.

It would be interesting to compare my answers, and see how much my moral fibre has fallen apart since then — I suspect the answer would be “severely” in the sex category, “a bit” for the alcohol questions, and “not in the slightest” under drugs, though we are dealing with somewhat different baselines in the three areas! Unfortunately – or perhaps not – I don’t have my answers from the heady days of student life. But the Purity Test does live on, albeit in a nifty, Excel-spreadsheet version. It’s all fairly self-explanatory; sheet 1 is the questions, sheet 2 is a chart of your depravity. It not only asks you the questions, and calculates your score, it also sends me a copy of your answers for blackmail purposes. Ho-ho-ho, only joking about the last bit, though if this were a M*cros*ft product, it would probably contact the FBI and turn you in — not for sexual or drug-related crime, you understand, but you WOULD be in deep trouble if you admitted using Netscape.

Blimey. This editorial HAS stumbled quite some way from talking about Haagen-Daaz and sobriety, hasn’t it? Still, I look forward to receiving your thoughts and scores — at the very least, you might get some good ideas for future evenings. I feel I ought to offer a prize for the highest score, but in the light of current events unfolding in America (indeed, on TV there as I type this), it would seem unnecessary. Perhaps Kenneth Starr should just have given the Purity Test to Bill, and let him get on with it..

Vice President…

Bill Clinton.

But before you move rapidly on to look for naughty pictures, having in all likelihood heard more than enough about what an evil, dissolute, reprehensible man he is over the past few days, let’s just pause for a second. What precisely IS the problem?

The first part is the sex. Sure, the guy had sex in the Oval Office, and while he was on the phone to congressmen. But coming from the guy who is notorious for not grasping the concept behind how to smoke dope, this can only be seen as a major step forward — one just wonders whether Monica Lewinsky could also say, “I didn’t inhale”… Okay, he’s still got a bit to learn about the sex thing – penises were not specifically designed to go into your partner’s mouth, but he seems to have a handle on the basic principles, even if the bit with the cigar was somewhat mind-boggling. [Deeply amusing to watch the various news reports here, all of which managed to raise Hinting Darkly to an artform, without actually mentioning precisely what it was he DID with the cigar.]

My major qualm is less what he did, than who he did it with. Take a look at JFK: he shagged like a bunny rabbit, but got his brains blown out in Texas, and is now a national icon, a status unlikely to be given to Clinton anytime soon. The difference is less that between Clinton and Kennedy, and more that between Monica Lewinsky and Marilyn Monroe. Bill: you’re the most powerful man in the world. YOU CAN DO BETTER! If it ain’t a top-class actress, singer or supermodel, don’t touch it.

And then, there are those who say, “Well, of course what he does in the bedroom is his own business, but he lied about it, and abused his position” — a nice compromise between the politically correct liberal, and the moral fascist. This is forgetting one major thing:

He is a politician

What did you expect? OF COURSE he lied! OF COURSE he abused his position! It’s what they DO! If he were a teacher, or a priest, or God help us, even a reporter, it would be a matter for some concern, but he’s not — he’s a bottom-dwelling, scum-sucking, politico. Condemning him for lying is like complaining because an estate agent was a bit economical with the truth. It only comes as a shock if you are taken in by the sax playing, the golf, and the general air of benign stupidity which all American presidents since Nixon seem to have cultivated.

I may be missing the point here, but then I haven’t bothered to go through all 400+ pages of the Starr report. This isn’t surprising, given that what’s on the web appears to be SCANS of the pages, which take so long to download that by the time you discover what Slick Willie’s supposed to have done, he, Monica, Hillary and, indeed, yourself will in all likelihood be dead. Two words, guys: “text” and “files”.

The more cynical amongst us will simply sit back and enjoy the spectacle; in my case, I’m especially joyed to be watching the humiliation of his wife. I don’t think he’s going to go (I hope not — Hazza may be a dreadful women, but at least she isn’t Tipper Gore), but I fully expect a lot more dirt to come out from under the couch regardless. Rarely has the Chinese threat ‘May you live in interesting times’ been more appropriate.

Happy Birthday to Me

  • Weight: 79.0 kg.
  • Days of sobriety: 17
  • Movies in unwatched video pile: 53

Apologies for the ‘Bridget Jones Diary’ style opening – what IS the appeal of that neurotic post-teen angst-ridden tripe, anyway? – but it seems an appropriate way to start, because one year ago, to the day, the TC web site opened for business. Since that day, I’ve written 48 editorials, 63 movie reviews and the site has expanded up to 3,323,525 bytes of information. According to the counter on the home-page, it has now been visited 13,913 times: of course, some people probably by-passed the front page, but on the other hand, a good few of those were probably just me logging on to see how many times it had been visited — especially in the early days! Thanks to every one of you for the encouragement, and for all the emails to tell me that my links weren’t working…

Generally, looking over the other ramblings which have been posted here in the past year is like going through a psychological photo album, as it brings back memories of what was important. And while occasional world events have intruded, largely this space has been occupied by smaller, less earth-shattering events: a medical, trips abroad, visitors, burglary attempts, and the gradually deteriorating atmosphere at work.

In some cases, such as pub bouncers, my opinions have mellowed slightly: last weekend, I spent a thoroughly entertaining afternoon down the pub, watching Charlton fans not getting served. Such is the inevitable result of the immediate nature of the Web; I can get pissed off on Thursday, write about it on Friday, and publish in on Saturday. This compares favourably with the, oh, eighteen months which could pass between writing for TC and the piece appearing.

Mind you, I may be mellowing across the board — I stumbled across the file which contained all my Usenet postings over the past couple of years, and I can’t believe TC Towers has not been burnt to the ground by an enraged mob of one sort or another as a result of my rants. I kinda wince on reading things like “American culture is all right in its place — America”. As one friend pointed out, now it’s “when can I go back to Las Vegas?”.

Way back in our very first editorial, I railed against the wave of Diana hysteria which was then sweeping the nation. Last weekend was the first anniversary of her death — the necroversary, perhaps? – and so, inevitably, we were treated to a whole new slew of programs on her “saintly” life and “tragic” death. Me, I commemorated the occasion with a triple bill of ‘Speed Racer’, ‘Lost Highway’ and ‘Crash’… However, I’ve been pleased to see how most people, save the real sad bastards, have had enough; in one poll, only 6% wanted to see any kind of official commemoration. Do I detect a fair bit of entirely justified embarrassment among those who let themselves get carried away by the tabloids last year?

But coming right up to date, my sobriety is now past the half-way mark — and thank Christ for that. Last night was VERY strange: was out all evening, but consumption of 2 1/2 pints of Diet Coke, on top of a couple of coffees, left me feeling more wired on caffeine than I’ve ever felt [I rarely have more than one coffee per day, so don’t exactly have a great deal of tolerance]. And it was not a nice feeling; if being drunk is like floating on a fluffy little cloud, a caffeine high is like someone scraping a razor-blade over your personality. I felt edgy, borderline paranoid, and distinctly twitchy. This was not nice, so for the remaining two weeks, I shall be sticking to the mineral waters.

And so, pausing only to raise a glass of cool, clear, caffeine-free Highland Spring: Here’s to the next year!